The book of Titus. We’re starting a new series together today called Planted. This is an important book for us. I’m excited to be able to go through this because of where we are in our church’s history. By the way, as you’re turning to the book of Titus I think it’s important to know, if you’re just now getting into the Bible, studying the Bible, learning about the Bible, I think it’s important to know your Bible is not put together in chronological order. So, if you pick thing up and you’re like, “I’m going to read through the Bible because I’ve never read through the Bible,” you’re gonna find out these stories bounce around frequently between book to book, because your Bible is not put together chronologically. Your Bible is actually put together categorically according to literally genre.
So, when you look at the New Testament, I’ll tell you how they put this complex thing together here. They put the four gospels in the front because they’re gospels, literally genre. The book of Acts, which is a historical book, is next. Then, they put the epistles after that. The epistles they categorized by the size. Look at the next 13 letters after Acts are Paul’s epistles, and if you wonder how they put Paul’s epistles in the Bible, biggest to littlest. That’s it. It has nothing to do when it was written, it’s biggest to littlest. That’s why Romans is first
You’re looking at Timothy and Titus here at the end, which we’re gonna read together then Philemon, the little dinky book that you can, if you ever want to check something off the to do list read Philemon and feel good about yourself. I read a book of the Bible, so really short book. Then they add the remaining epistles to the end of that and then the book of Revelation, which if you ever read that good luck. It’s a good Halloween-themed book to read. There’s a lot of crazy things happening in Revelation. That’s how your Bible is put together, according to categories.
Titus is a unique book. Timothy and Titus, these three books here towards the end of Paul’s letters are considered pastoral epistles. I think they’re really church planting epistles. Paul works with a team to plant churches around the world, proclaiming the gospel, making disciples for Jesus. When they’re going to these cities and towns and they’re seeing churches established, they’re talking about healthy church, how can we have healthy church.
This is a book that very much relates to where we are as a church. How can we be a healthy church? We are a church plant in a valley where we desire not to just survive but to thrive, to be healthy, to multiply, to make a difference, to impact lives. Just as Paul writes this book to Titus to make a difference, so we can relate what this letter is about in this first century to where we are today. I love how morning worship began as we dive into this book, because this very much relates to where I want to go for us as a church family
When you think about planting a church, there’s lots of different church plants with lots of different styles and approaches to how they begin. One of the things that I just want to be cautious about in how we build our churches, what you win people with is what you win them to. Does that make sense? So, there is some danger in the way sometimes we approach church planting with that sort of perspective. What you win people with is what you win them to. Some churches get into certain patterns of doing things that may be good for the moment, but I don’t always think it’s sustainable for the future.
One of the things I’ve really appreciated about ABC is that our history as a church, as we’ve grown by about 10% every year since we started. That’s a healthy growth rate. While I think it’s important to be relevant, it’s important to be relevant where your culture is. I don’t think we always have to dive into being trendy, because trendy can get exhausting. As fast as culture moves today I would say, especially today trendy can … Now, it’s important to try to be relevant with the culture, because I think the culture creates the platform to share the gospel, but the church isn’t called to be trendy. It doesn’t have to match the culture in every way, but it does need to understand the culture where it’s at in order to relate to the people. While it’s always important to be relevant we don’t have to be trendy.
What you win people with is what you win them to. Here’s what we want to win people to. Jesus, right? The simplicity of our church should be about this. We want to love God, love people. I think Jesus called … The purpose for which His church exists is to make disciples. We want to see people to be genuine followers of Jesus where Jesus transforms their life, and in transforming their lives it transforms their relationships for Christ. We say it very simplistic. We want you to experience a transformation in Jesus that transforms your relationships for Jesus.
Just having the simplicity of a guitar this morning and singing, that is some of my favorite worship where it’s just one musical instrument, God’s people, their voices lifting in worship to God, a beautiful thing. It doesn’t have to be all the additional things. It can be, because I think music speaks to the heart and people like that stuff, right? But, it’s really about where your heart is in Jesus. The interest of our heart is about reaching people and where their heart is as it relates to Jesus. When you consider the book of Titus that’s what Paul is interested in in writing this letter. Paul is writing this letter to Titus as Titus is sent to the place of Crete in order to see a church that’s sustaining. When we think about our church here we are a church plant, and we want to become sustaining and not just be about us, not just about this place and our people, but we’re not just our kingdom focused but really His Kingdom focus, and how what God does here can multiply beyond us throughout this Valley in seeing churches thriving.
Paul talks about this with Titus in discussing what a healthy church looks like. Let me just say this in the most simplistic form. We think about church. I’m not talking about building, I’m talking about me and you. We are the church. The health of the church is determined by the health of the individual that makes up the church. So, the big question is, “Where is your heart?” Where is mine before God? When Paul starts off this letter, I love the beginning of this because he starts with the foundation of the way the church is leading itself. He begins by using his own life as the primary example. What we’re gonna look at is how Paul views himself. When we think about a church thriving in this valley, and the church in Crete thriving. As Paul communicates In the meantime, he starts by using himself as an example. How did Paul view himself? How did Paul view his God, and how did Paul view ministry?
So, we’re just gonna talk about those three things when it relates to healthy church, and the first five verses of this book. We’re gonna spend five weeks in this book. As we look at how Paul describes how a church plant first century should look, we’re gonna relate this to our church and what God desires for us, because we want to run, and thrive, and our relationship with Jesus as His community, and how God can call us to make an impact in this valley. How does Paul view himself? He uses himself here as the primary example. He says this, “Paul, a bond servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the face of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.”
So, Paul begins his identity as it relates to church by connecting it to himself and his position in the church. I love what he does. He takes these two thoughts as it relates to him in the way he does ministry. He says, “I have the identity of an apostle and bond servant.” I love when Paul is sharing who he is as he writes this letter to Titus, the people of Crete. He begins his identity not with apostle, like people that just want to put the trump card forward would start there, like, look me and my authority. Paul rather lowers himself in his positional understanding that before anything else what he is as it relates to God is a bond servant. God’s leaders are never above a plunger and a broom.
When I graduated from a bible college one of the ceremonies they have at the end of the service when you receive your diploma is they give everyone a towel. It’s to remind you that the purpose of ministry is about serving, and the thing that your Savior, the one that you pursue in life, was all about at the end of His life was taking the lowest position of a servant and washing the feet of His disciples. He is the one to be modeled, right? So, Paul calls himself to this position just like his Savior, just like his Lord and God, that he himself is also a bond servant. What exactly is a bond servant? It really means slave. Bond servant is a slave.
What exactly is Paul trying to get across to us by using these terms? In our culture today when we think about slavery we sort of position that word against American history. We look back in the 1800s and we see the degrading of a race of people, and we sort of associate slavery with that identity. But, when the Bible talks about slavery it’s not rooted in American understanding of slavery. In the time of Paul’s days a slave wasn’t subject based on race. A slave could have been anybody during this time period. It wasn’t just one particular people group. When you look at this idea of bond servant in scripture, the Mosaic law actually allowed indentured servants to become bond servants, or slaves.
Now, why in the world would someone want to do that, right? An indentured servant was one that owed a certain debt and they would work for someone to pay it off and they end up paying off that debt, and when they were finally freed from being that indentured servant they could make a choice, you can go on your own freedom now or you could become a slave to your master. Now, why in the world would you do that? Well, let me give you an example as it relates to our culture today. I think it’s completely possible in America today to work a job full-time and even beyond that and still not to be able to afford where you live.
In the days of indentured servants your master could do such a good job in providing for you that rather than go out and find a new job you’re like, “I got it good where I’m at. I want to belong here.” They would make themselves a bond servant to that master for their lives, because their master treated them so well. They could work their job and still have their home and their family taken care of. Some would even argue that when you compare some of the ways indentured servants were treated to how we treat people in America when it’s possible to work a full job and still not be able to afford where you live, that you could be worse off than a slave and that would be an indentured servant subjecting themselves to a master. It’s not the same as American history.
We could even look at that and argue for Paul becoming a bond servant here. That he has found a place for which his life is satisfied. A bond servant gives the idea that you will be mastered and controlled by something. It’s impossible not to. You’re a being created for worship, and being created for worship you will look for something to give you worth, value, and meaning. Where you find that you will make yourself belong to it because it gives you your identity, your sense of satisfaction of who you are. The reality is nothing in life will ultimately satisfy you the way God will.
So, seeing that, Paul says that his life is mastered and controlled by his Lord. You will serve something. What controls you? Bond servants understand we have a purpose bigger than ourselves. A bond servant is about dying to self in order to live out that purpose. Paul was rescued and he becomes a servant of God to help others find that rescue in him. Look what it says, “A bond servant to God, an apostle to Jesus Christ for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” So, he finds his purpose in his identities that relate to God in proclaiming this truth which really sets him free as he surrenders himself to who God is.
The church exists for a purpose greater than the individual. The second part of verse 1 tells us it’s about multiplication. Our purpose as a church in multiplication … Really the word is discipleship. We say this, the purpose of the church as it relates in verse 1 what Paul is showing us is really the great commission and the great commandment. I’ve already told you this. The great commandment and the great commission. The great commission is to make disciples, go in the world and make disciples. God created the church to make disciples, and the great commandment love God, love others. God cares about the heart of people. God desires to use you to reach the hearts of people that His glory may be made known. That’s why the church exists. Paul who once persecuted the church has now made himself a servant of God and in serving God he loves what God loves, and what God loves is the church. It’s His bride.
Paul helps the church become all that it’s called to be, which is why he’s writing to Titus in this place of Crete. He wants to see them thrive. Now, using his life as his own example he says this, “That my identity first is that I am a bond servant. I am surrendered to this King who gave His life for us that I might give my life in return for Him,” maybe even begging the question for us, “Why do you serve God?” Is it because of what you get or because of who He is? Is God your prize or do you serve Him for another prize? Does that make sense? Because if you pursue God for what you get, the minute you stop getting what you want guess what you do? You abandon God, because all He really was was a tool to serve your needs. The God in that scenario was really you, because you just leveraged God as your tool to get what you want, because you were making it about yourself.
The call to the Christian life is to see God as the prize. We do this not even thinking about it theologically as Christians. We talk about heaven in that way. When we think about eternity we say things like this, “Are you going to Heaven?” Because what makes Heaven heaven is God. It is His presence. So, the pursuit of Heaven isn’t about the place in itself, because the place apart from God isn’t really Heaven. God is the prize. God is the reason for which we do these things. Paul when he’s saying he’s a bond servant it’s not about what he might get from God, but it’s because his pursuit is God itself.
We are called to live for a purpose greater than ourselves and our purpose is found in that relationship to our Lord. As we come to love Him we love what He loves. What we produce ultimately reproduces, because it’s about disciples. So, building a church here, this church isn’t an end in itself, but rather a means in creating an end, which is further disciples in pursuit of Jesus, and living out this great commission and great commandment. When we look at these two phrases, Paul says one bond servant, which is really what I want us to think about, guys, when it comes to Christianity sometimes people will only pursue Christ for the accolades and titles rather than from just the sheer joy of relationship and loving God. A servant in God’s Kingdom is greater than any other position anywhere else.
You look at these two titles, bond servant and apostle. I want to talk just a little bit about what apostle represents, because I think, at least from my theological understanding, I think sometimes there is a little bit of misunderstanding as it relates to these term. I want you to know … I’m gonna share some theological verses. If you disagree with me that’s okay, don’t be angry, okay. But, if you disagree with me find some verses that back up what you disagree with. That’s it. When it comes to apostle I would argue as it relates to apostle today, I find the position of apostle as something that has passed. Let me give you a few reasons why.
In Acts chapter 1 Paul says he’s a bond servant here, which we want to emphasize, not apostle, but he does have the identity of apostle. In Acts chapter 1 when Judas takes his life the disciples quote from scripture and they say, “Well, the Bible says,” quoting from scripture if you back up to verse 20 you’ll see it in the Old Testament they say that it was foretold that they were to replace this person. Acts chapter 1, verse 21, “Therefore, it’s necessary that if a man who is accompanying us …” They’re giving the qualifications hour for an apostle, “It is necessary that a man have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning with the baptism of John until the day that he was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection to occupy this ministry, an apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”
So, it’s saying, “Look, Judas is gone. It’s prophesied that we’re supposed to have a 12th apostle right now, and so let’s appoint one. Here’s the qualifications. They had to have done ministry with Jesus and see the resurrected Christ. One of the reasons I think apostleship isn’t something that we pursue today is because the qualification is an impossibility. But, in Acts, chapter 1 they lay out what the qualifications were. Now, you see that they’re picking the 12th apostle here. now, we could very easily say, “Okay, what about Paul? Where does Paul fit in this?” In 1 Corinthians 15, it says this about Paul. He’s saying that Jesus appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all as to one untimely born he appeared to me also, for I am the least of the apostles.” So, Paul’s saying, “Look, when it comes to the apostles you have the apostles. Jesus appeared to the apostles and that was the qualifications to be an apostle, Acts chapter 1 says, but, God also appeared to me and this is what give me the opportunity to be an apostle. But, His appearance to me was unique. I mean this wasn’t something that was supposed to continue on. “He appeared to me also and I’m the least of the apostles. I was one that was untimely born.” There’s the uniqueness of this.
So, we look at the 12 apostles. The 12 apostles versus the 12 tribes, and then Paul was to the Gentiles. He is referred to as the apostle to the Gentiles. So, his uniqueness as it relates to the Gentile world was birthed out of this. We think about the position of apostle, I just argue with the thought of why would you want to be one? Because when you look at what apostles did in scripture, apostles weren’t people that stood in lofty positions with wealth before crowds. Apostles were ones that went into the most dark places of the world and faced the worst persecution for the proclamation of the gospel. That’s biblical apostle in New Testament.
Paul, the 12 apostles, when you study the apostles of the early church, they were severely persecuted, 11 of the 12 lost their lives because of their faith in Jesus. They scattered all over the known world and faced heavy persecution and difficult martyrdom because of their faith in Christ. Paul himself one of those. The only one that wasn’t martyred was John and he was exiled on the Island of Patmos. He was thrown in a boiling vat at one point.
So, they faced tremendous persecution, and Paul writes about it. In fact, if you read 2 Corinthians 11, there were people going around calling themselves super apostles and Paul’s like, “Why are they super apostles? I have more reason to be an apostle than them,” and he shares his accolades as being an apostle and look what he says, imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death, five times I received from Jews 39 lashes, three times I was beaten with rod, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, night and a day I spent in the deep, I have been on frequent journeys and dangers from rivers, dangers of robbers, dangers of countrymen, dangers of Gentiles, dangers in cities, dangers in wilderness, dangers in seas, dangers in … You get the point, right? Why would you want that? Sign me up!
But, when you think about these two positions, the purpose in all of this is for us to consider, guys, what God calls all of us to be, His servants. I’m leery of people that just want titles. Don’t pursue Jesus for titles. Titles are things that might bring clarification later. We pursue Jesus to serve Him and His kingdom. I think if you just want to know a few more verses as it relates to apostolic authority, again this isn’t to argue, this is just to challenge us theologically. 2 Corinthians 12, it says “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance by signs, wonders, and miracles. When you read in Acts it tells us that Peter, in chapter 5, performed signs, wonders, and miracles, so much so that people would bring out their sick and Peter’s shadow would heal them.
I would just say this, the office of apostle was affirmed by signs, wonders, and miracles. In Peter’s day, something unique about his time period, is there really weren’t any hospitals. People associated physical things that happened to you as spiritual torment from the gods. You had done something done to make the gods mad, so anything physically wrong with you is because the gods were angry with you. In some cultures they would cast you out in the streets, because they didn’t want to be caught helping you, because if they helped you that could make the gods angry at them, too. So, hospitals weren’t in common practice. It wasn’t until about 325 A.D. that the Christian church started adding hospitals to their places of worship to treat people. Hospitals weren’t a regular thing. In fact, if you had anything associated with a hospital it was more like medicine men where spiritual leaders would come in like medicine men and do spiritual chants over you hoping that you got better.
This is what I would say, anyone that would claim the ability to have signs, wonders, and miracles … In Peter’s day, Paul’s day they didn’t really have hospitals, but if you were to claim to have that, then please go to the hospital, go heal them please. We know where they collect, right? Caring for them becomes important. But, here’s what the early church is taught to do. When you read in the New Testament you will not find a letter written by Paul or any of the early apostles that says, “Look, your church needs more apostles, or your church needs certain types of leadership.” When the church established leadership they only had an outline for two positions in the church, one was the deacon and the other was an elder. So, when the churches are being birthed, like in Crete, you’re gonna see this next week. When the churches are being birthed [inaudible 00:24:48] world, Paul’s not writing them, “Look, you need to appoint apostles.” What Paul is writing them and saying is, “Look, you need leadership and let’s call them elders.”
So, the church wasn’t called to appoint apostles, they were called to appoint elders. It says this in Ephesians chapter 2 just to put it in perspective, “You’re fellow citizens with the saints and all of God’s household,” so all of us together make up God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. So, notice in the active tense, we are this right now, we are the saints, we are God’s household right now, having been built on the past foundation of what the apostles and prophets laid out. I would just say this, I would argue this. If God wanted us to continue in these positions, that he would lay out the qualifications for that. But, because the Bible is silent laying out the qualifications for us to present these in churches but rather what God highlights is the elders. What God is interested in leadership in the church as it relates to elders. Here’s how you find them. They have the heart of a servant. How do they care for others? How do they care for their family? How do they minister to the hearts around them?
The point of all of this, guys, is to remind us that how did Paul view himself as it relates to a thriving church? Church is as good as the people that make it up. Where’s our heart? Is it about position? It’s about service. Is it about what we get? It’s about who He is. The heart in these moments is about worship. Jesus, you are my King. Just move on a little bit further past there. Paul not only talks about his identity, but then he talks about his God. It says this, “He’s a bond servant and an apostle for Jesus for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, and the hope of eternal life, which God who cannot lie promised long ages ago.”
I think if we believed what the statement was communicating we would live a little more boldly and urgently in our Christian life. We’re talking about in this verse eternal life which God who cannot lie gives to you. The death of Jesus, like God becoming flesh and dying for us should communicate the urgency of the human condition. If God is willing to become flesh and die for us how important it should be for our ears to be attentive to what it is He is accomplishing on our behalf at the cross. It’s eternal life. The soul faces eternal death. Death doesn’t mean you cease to exist. Death means separation. What God in being the King of peace has brought to us is life, reconciliation to relationship with Him for all of eternity. He says it this way, “That God cannot lie.”
What would encourage Paul to write this type of statement? God doesn’t lie. Maybe it’s because the Cretans he’s writing to they thought God was a liar based on what they thought about God. When we engage the world we find out that people tend to have a hate for God, but their hate for God is based on the idea of the God they’ve conceived within their mind. Doesn’t necessitate that it is the real God. Does that make sense? Sometimes I’ll encounter people and they’ll say to me, “I hate God because there’s so much evil in the world.” First of all, where did you get the idea for the basis of determining what’s right and wrong, what’s evil and what’s good? Where do you think that came from? If you’ve looked at this world to determine certain things are evil and you hate that and God would have created you to hate evil and love good, maybe, just maybe, that God agrees with you.
So, there’s a disconnect in their mind. There’s evil in this world. I hate evil. God created it so, therefore, I hate God. So, there’s a disconnect in their mind in trying to be able to understand how God can be good and yet allow evil in this world. Why is there evil if God is good? The reality is it relates to our death. 2 Peter 3:9, “God is long-suffering to us, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance.” Our souls are disconnected from God. Our souls are on a path of death apart from Christ. God allows the world to continue in its trajectory to give us opportunity to turn to Him as our King. It’s His sustaining grace that allows us to breathe right now. In His plan of providing grace for you to be able to come to Him, God is also going to reconcile every wrong ever done in this world. There will not be a tear that is ever wasted in God’s hands.
God agrees with you. God hates evil. That is why with such passion He came in this world as flesh and bone and died on the cross so that He can reconcile those things in Him. Your heart agrees with God in hating evil. They don’t hate God, they just hate the version of God that they’re thinking of, and so they’re saying this God does not lie so that we could see the truth of God and cling to it. As you pursue God in your life here’s the comfort of this is that your calling in living for God in this world, your calling is only as capable as the one who calls you. If what you believe in isn’t trustworthy then who cares. You could think it’s a bed of roses all day long but at the end of the day if it’s not dependable it’s not gonna hold you. If God is who He says He is when He makes a promise you can walk in that.
As it relates to God what Paul is saying here is, “Look, God has given you promises, because when you live as a church there’s gonna be challenges, and in the midst of those challenges what do you cling to? Do you give into the challenge or your hope in your God? God can’t lie. That makes His promises so precious to us that we would hold onto that and pursue Him. When you think about this section of scripture and Paul identifying His calling, he’s wrapping his calling as a bond servant in the truth of who God is. When you see anyone doing anything effective for the Lord and His kingdom it always happens that way.
I love in Exodus chapter 3 when Moses is called at the burning bush. God calls Moses, Moses comes to God in Exodus chapter 3, verse 11 and God tells him what He wants him to do and Moses asks this question. He says, “Who am I? Who am I that I’m gonna do this, God?” Verse 11. You know how God answers his question? With a question. Moses it isn’t who are you. The question is really who am I? Because, everything that God calls Moses to do isn’t based on Moses’ strength. It’s based on His. That’s when God says, “Tell Him I Am has sent you.” Yahweh. We have the first declaration of scripture in the name of God.
When you follow that theme in scripture you see that calling on anyone that does anything for the Lord. David was passed over because he was a little servant boy. He was the least of his brothers, the last brother in line. Isaiah, he comes before God in Isaiah chapter 6 and what does he see? He sees the angels in heaven surrounding the throne of God as it thunders, and the angel comes down and touches Isaiah’s lips for the declaration of the message of God. Based on God’s authority he says, “Here am I, send me.” It’s not about you. It’s about Him. It’s how Paul views himself in light of who God is and so how Paul views his God.
A third is this, how does Paul view his ministry? Look in verse 4 and 5. To Titus he finally shares with us where he’s sending this. To Titus my true son … I should probably read verse 3. Let me read this for you. “But, at the proper time manifested even His Word and the proclamation which I was entrusted according to the command of God our Savior. So, Paul has given this message to share he’s saying and then he shares this with Titus. “To Titus, my true child in a common faith, grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Savior. For this reason I left you in Crete that you set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. How does Paul view his ministry?
So, you see in these verses he’s seeing this message God’s given him and now he’s sharing it with Titus, and he’s thinking about in verse 5 Crete, the church that’s in Crete. How does Paul view his ministry? When I use the word ministry, or when any of us use the word ministry, I’ll always hesitate in saying this, because I want us to understand, when we say ministry the focus of ministry is people. The primary goal of ministry is not task. The goal of ministry is people. The reason ministry exists is to reach hearts. If there are no hearts to reach, there is no ministry to be had. The goal of ministry is people. It’s not about accomplishing tasks.
Sometimes you can hear people talk about their calling. They’ll look at it with dread, like you got to get there and do your job because you’ve been assigned to do your job. If you ever view ministry that way just take a pause in your heart, okay, because that’s not what ministry is created for. God gives you a place to serve in order to leverage a position to minister to a heart. The goal of ministry is about a heart. When Paul’s thinking about ministry he’s not thinking about, “Let’s build a church here. Let’s see a building erected and let’s just create this structure, guys. No, what he’s thinking about is people. He’s thinking about the hearts of Crete, and he’s thinking about those he does ministry with in order to reach the people in Crete. So, he’s writing this letter to Titus. He cares about those he serves alongside and those he is serving with together in order to reach that place. So, he’s serving with people, concerned about their hearts, and he’s serving with these people to reach people, concerned about their hearts.
So, he checks with Titus, his teammate. I love the way Paul refers to him. He talks to him about a child, a spiritual child. He’s got this relationship to him where, I think, Paul led Titus to the Lord, so true child in the common faith. What unites them is this faith. It’s not there faith personally but the faith of Christianity. He finds this relationship where he’s this spiritual mentor, the one who led Titus to the Lord. He’s a spiritual child under Paul’s wing in which he is mentoring him, because Paul in ministry is concerned for his heart. That’s what ministry is about, the concern for hearts not accomplishing tasks.
Titus, you see, in the New Testament is mentioned 13 times. He went with Paul as Paul conducted his ministry journeys. Paul sent Titus to Crete. A few reasons, I think, Paul sent Titus. Crete was a Gentile area and Titus was a Gentile. Unique to Paul’s ministry a lot of Jews working with Paul, but here Paul has a Gentile working with him, and Crete was a tough area. Titus was a tough guy. Paul had problems in Corinth. He didn’t send Timothy, Timothy was too nice. He sent Titus. He thinks about Crete. Crete’s a Gentile area. Crete’s a tough area, and Paul sends Titus.
I think Paul also sent Titus to Crete because Titus understood the culture better than anyone and could minister to it. Context matters. Being relevant matters. The culture around you matters. Culture creates the context to share the gospel. Where’s the need in where you live? How can we leverage the gospel to speak into the hearts of people? If you care about the people you’ll care about what they care about. You’ll know them, and you’ll love them. Titus understood Gentiles. Titus understood rough. Titus understood this context. In fact, in Titus chapter 1, verse 12 it says this, “One of their own, a prophet of their own said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” What a place, right. Buy me some real estate, we’re gonna call it a vacation home. This place was known as a home for mercenaries for hire. The streets were unsafe. It was a place of no accountability really. It’s probably where the slogan was adopted, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Crete was one of those places. But, at the same time it was ripe for the gospel because it was a place where spiritual battle was happening.
In that darkness you could see the apparent need for Jesus to be made known in the hearts of the people. So, Paul sent Titus to establish a church that would make disciples, and reach the world. Paul knew in order to live out the calling to make disciples he could not do this alone. We need each other. We need each other to do what God has called us to do. Paul worked with a team to do that. He says to Titus, verse 5, “That he would set things in order and appoint elders in every city as I directed you. Find leaders that care to make a difference and set these things in order. Find out where the need is in the gospel and help people pursue that. Set these things in order and establish leadership.
Guys, as a church we consider our area, to set these things in order and just ask the question, “Where is the need for the gospel in our midst, in our communities? We all need a burden for which to care and a purpose for which to live. To be a thriving church you can think in this context of verse 4 and 5, it’s not about ministry to accomplish a task but care for the people around us. What Paul is saying in this passage is a thriving church needs true servants of the Lord, helping God’s people mature, believing in God’s promises, faithful in verse 3 to what God has entrusted us, striving as a team concerned for the gospel need in their area. To think about our ministry, our purpose.
I think about an effective church, my mind thinks of three areas. What’s the purpose? We don’t have church just to have church. Places may do that, but we don’t show up on Sunday just to show up on Sunday. Let other people do that, I don’t want to do that. I didn’t move my family across the country to live for that reason. I want to make a difference, right? What’s the purpose for our existence, the great commission, great commandment. Make disciples, love god, love people. What’s the need? The context of the culture creates the platform to leverage the gospel. What’s the need in our area for which we could speak the truth of Christ that sets us free? Where does darkness pervade in the lives of people where the gospel and the light of the gospel can make a difference in their hearts? How can I share that truth with them?
For years I’ve thought about this in our context and I finally brought it down to one word, and I think I’ve shared with you before. I think the most powerful need in our valley, and it may surprise you if you’ve not heard, but I think it’s loneliness. I think people today are lonely. You look at it and think, “How is that a gospel need?” Let me tell you why. In the Garden of Eden when Adam and Even first sinner what did they do? They ran and they hid, right? They ran and they hid and they clothed themselves. Here they had this naked world to run free in and now all of a sudden they got to wear them clothes, right? But, they run and they hide. What it’s communicating for us there is that as soon as sin in the world what followed was separation, loneliness. They didn’t know what to do with their sin. It separated them from one another. It separated them from God.
I think today we still fight that battle. We’re the most connected as any generation of people could have ever been and still loneliness is one of the deepest needs and the core of us as human beings, more so, I think, than ever before. So busy we don’t have the depth of relationship that our soul longs for, and definitely not with our God. What do we do with our sin? How do we connect to people? The gospel invites us in to show us a God that has pursued us in the midst of our sin that separates from Him, a God that desires to know you and to allow you to enjoy all of eternity with Him, a place where in your brokenness you can come and you can just be transparent with your failures, because God is the one that heals. You don’t have to pretend, just bring yourself before the cross.
That’s what this church is, a place of imperfect people gathering together to find our identity in Jesus, because our worth, value, and meaning is really not designed to be discovered in anywhere else other than in Him, and for Him to make us new. That’s how we live our mission. In the midst of loneliness here’s what we desire, for people to experience a transforming relationship in Jesus that transforms their relationships for Jesus. At that loneliness our soul aches [inaudible 00:44:09] will be destroyed in Christ and that there would be birthed in Jesus a community of people that care and love one another no matter where we come from. When we live in that reality God brings life in Him through us to reach this world.